Hello, folks. Alice and I are ‘back down home’ again, in the Deep South of East Texas. A few days ago, we had an opportunity to take a Fall Boat Trip up an old historic waterway of mid-1800’s America… Big Cypress Bayou… with our destination being the historic Steamboat City of Jefferson, TX. And what a trip! This is the Ark-La-Tex area, full of history that centers around Texas Independence, French Cajuns, the Louisiana ‘Neutral Strip’, bad Outlaws, and… music, like KWKH’s 1950’s “Louisiana Hayride”.
In the years 1845 – 1872, the city of Jefferson, TX, on Big Cypress Bayou, was one of the the most important Ports in the State of Texas. Our Fall 2016 Boat Trip took us over a small portion of the same route that the Steamboats used to take in getting to Jefferson, coming from places like Shreveport, New Orleans and even St. Louis. It should be noted, in those days that the water level of the connected lakes & bayous was perhaps 10 feet higher than today, due to “the Great Red River Raft” that caused a major backup of water starting South of Shreveport, raising river levels upstream & enabling river traffic all the way to Jefferson. Shreveport, LA is named after the man that in 1838 cleared ‘The Great Raft’, Captain Henry Miller Shreve. Indeed, my Alma Mater, Louisiana State University – Shreveport (LSU-S) adopted “The Pilots“ as their Mascot… referring to the early Steamboat River Pilots that that traveled the Red River and related bayous, transportinng freight and passengers.
Our route this trip, as shown on the map below, started at the landing under the TX Hwy 43 bridge where it crosses over Big Cypress Bayou, to Jefferson, about an estimated 20 miles by water upstream. Click on the map to zoom in more closely… or move locations… or pan out to a more broad view.
The bridge in the below picture is the TX Hwy 43 bridge, next to the landing where we put in. Our trip was taken in late October… and the brownish colors are showing definite Fall.
Steamboats would have not gotten under this bridge… South of here is another river… the Sabine River, known for defining the Louisiana Neutral Strip, land in the early 1800’s that was disputed by the New Americans and the the Spanish Government that owned this part of Texas. It became a very lawless territory
We’re off… and moving to the North & West, upstream towards Jefferson.
You can clearly see the channel – but note the big clump of cypress trees… directly in the middle. Riverboat Captains & Pilots must have earned their money… or they would not have lasted very long.
Recreational opportunities along Big Cypress Bayou are enormous… and there are some beautiful homes – but note that all homes (err… um… surviving homes) are located on stilts about 8 – 15 feet above the shoreline. Floods & highwater DO happen here…
Most of these homes above are just beautiful… In Louisiana, there is something about living on the water… boating… the early French-speaking Cajuns loved this kind of territory, which is more prevalent in the Mississippi River delta, and along the Gulf Coast.
This is just one of many & numerous side channels… quiet, peaceful… mysterious…
In the 1830’s & 1840’s, many Americans ‘migrated’ into Texas thru this area via the Bayou. Texas Independence was declared in March of 1836, after the ‘battle ‘of Goliad… and about the time of The Alamo… and a few weeks later, San Jacinto.
Wildlife abounds. This Blue Heron heard us coming… and took flight.
There are still re-occurring snags in the river… Indeed, on our trip we hit a fully submerged one – the motor propeller guard protected our prop, but all of us in the boat took a good tumble.
This red brick building dates back to the Civil War – It was a Confederate Powder Magazine, used to store gunpowder manufactured in nearby Marshall, TX, for the Confederacy. No fighting ever happened here, as the Union troops were not able to get upstream past Mansfield, LA, on the Red River.
The Civil War left this area of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas with some very bad Outlaws… The little Texas town of Bloomburg every year celebrates a ‘Robin Hood” outlaw, also known for shooting Yankees… in their “The Annual Cullen Baker Country Fair“. Alice and I attended this year (1st Saturday in Nov) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Cullen Baker was in fact a bad Outlaw… who’s gang killed 50-60 people… and himself was eventually killed and buried in Jefferson, TX
We are approaching Jefferson, Texas.
Below is a 10-picture slide show of pictures of Jefferson, Texas.
After a good BBQ lunch… and some shopping… back to our boat. No head of steam here… but a wonderful way to float the bayous.
Heading back, these friendly turtles are looking at where we’ve been… and a little up.
This little guy was looking at his friends on the first log. Note his reflection.
Wide open waterway… no Steamboats coming. Clear sailing.
In sailing these smooth waters… had a moment to remember back to when Alice and I were kids in the 1950’s, living in Texarkana… (We never met until years later in 1971). At that time radio station KWKH, in closeby Shreveport, LA, was a 50,000 Watt powerhouse AM Radio Station heard in 28 States… and that broadcast Country music of the time… and the “Louisiana Hayride“, where Elvis Presley and Johnny Horton got their start. Before the Hayride, KWKH was famous for it’s radio personality, “W. K. Henderson” and his ” Hello, World, Doggone, Ya! ” start to his radio show.
Returning just past our landing point, we found this large bayou close to Caddo Lake State Park… just beautiful in the late afternoon setting sun. We decided to go in.
Beautiful Cypress Trees… with hanging moss… and a white Heron looking for an evening meal.
This picture is taken from the inside of the bayou as we’re heading back out, with a full setting sun shining on the Fall foliage.
Pulling in at our landing point. Just downstream from here, is a wonderful Catfish Restaurant on the Bayou (stilts)… Riverbend Restaurant…. which a few days later we DID make it to!
That concludes our boat trip up Big Cypress Bayou. What a beautiful part of the Ark-la-Tex… Thank you for reading. Any questions or comments please feel free to contact us!
Jim & Alice LaPeer
To view a full-screen, high-resolution slideshow of Where Steamboats used to go., click the ‘curved arrow‘ just below the picture on the right. To return to normal display, hit [Esc] key. Otherwise, place cursor over the picture to display the slideshow control buttons. Comments are Welcomed!